While the bill at Knitting Factory on May 14 promised punk rock via seasoned vets Social Distortion, the evening wrapped up with odes to Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.
Opening with a vocal tremor, the lovely Lindi Ortega kicked the evening off in a pair of bright red cowgirl boots. Ortega's sounds soon swelled to occupy the entire building. Her most rousing track served as a sexy, tongue-in-cheek public service announcement against substance abuse with lyrics like: "Don't use alcohol / don't use crack / don't use cigarettes / they'll turn your lungs black ... If you want to get your fix, darling, use me."
Ortega's talent caught an audience that was prepped for punk off guard, but only briefly.
Gauging by the unscientific barometer of the crowd's cheering, many in attendance at the sold-out show were as stoked for Toadies as Social Distortion. The Fort Worth, Texas, quartet dealt chunky guitar chords and smoky barroom vocals from its three previous albums and its 2010 release, Feeler, which band members pitched often as being for sale at the merch table. While Toadies fans were engaged, new ears were largely unswayed because of the band's buttoned-up stage presence while playing solid punk rock and psychobilly tracks.
Flying liquid is characteristic of punk rock shows—be it saliva, sweat, water or booze thrown indiscriminately. But even before Fullerton, Calif.'s Social Distortion took the stage, the metal surfaces and pipes of the Knitting Factory perspired in the humidity of a room full of humans, errantly dripping onto the crowd.
Social D's 50-year-old lead singer Mike Ness was the key fixture of the evening. Ness took the stage in his usual brash fashion—doffed in a white collared shirt, suspenders and a fedora—and opened with classics like "Story of My Life" and "I Was Wrong," the creedo of the band's down-and-out punk.
The group shied away from new songs, playing only "Machine Gun Blues" and "Bakersfield" off its 2011 self-produced release, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes.
After the first half of the band's set, slicked with sweat, Ness paused to address the crowd:
"Let's get a look at this crowd here in downtown Boise," he said. "Great to be here, ladies and gentlemen. Had a day off here yesterday, went to Goldy's, got some pancakes. I was worthless for the rest of the day, man, worthless."
Social Distortion brought the evening to a close with an encore performance, slowing things down with a track by Tennessee rockabilly legend Carl Perkins. The band finished its set with the crowd chanting the lyrics to Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." Ness reaffixed his fedora and left the stage after a final refrain.